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9 of Swords (Symbolism, Meaning & More!)

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The Nine of Swords heralds a crisis that will bring about the end of a vicious cycle.

The card’s image shows a woman in her bed; riddled with dark thoughts and unable to fall asleep, she sinks her face in her palms in a gesture of utter despair. Her blanket, adorned with patterns of roses and symbols from the Zodiac, provides neither comfort nor protection from the nine swords hovering in the darkness above, an ever-present menace. The carving on the side of the bed depicts two men fighting, symbolizing the mind’s battle against itself.

Nine of Swords Symbolism

Guaranteed to darken any reading they show up in, the three last cards of the suit of Swords are closely connected; isolation and imprisonment, shame, anxiety, and mental pain, all of them unmistakable bad omens, the consequences of cruelty, ignorance, and stress.

The Nines represents a crisis and the eventual emergence and manifestation of dormant energy as it reaches its zenith. In the Nine of Swords, overthinking and anxiety have created an echo chamber that no light can penetrate. The (un)conscious mind has no means of escape here, and its nightmares will often reflect this inability to break free, as well as the dreamer’s deepest fears.

While the influence of the Sword cards is usually short-lived and subjective, the pain and agony they represent are intense and unforgettable just like the last images of a bad dream. Dreams may be illusions, fabrications of the irrational mind, but they invariably reflect fragments of truth. Their symbols, their narrative schemes, and the emotions they stir are drawn from reality hence the uncanny feeling that stays with the dreamer afterward; it felt too real to ignore and dismiss as inconsequential!

And just like the moment when a man wakes up from a puzzling and disturbing vision to realize it was only a dream, the Nine of Swords demonstrates the emergence of a cold and cruel truth, the cold realization that humanity is but a speck of dust suspended in a vast convoluted nothingness; we may live in a world of light, but beyond this world that we know intimately and which is arguably infinitesimal when compared to the universe there is endless darkness beyond comprehension that even the brightest stars fail to illuminate.

Subjective reality crumbles in awe and fear of unfathomable cosmic complexity and harsh truths, leading to the dissolution of consciousness which has no other choice than to regress and retreat into itself and try to find shelter from an unspeakable invisible threat. Watch closely: one cannot avoid getting entangled in the thorns of the “safety blanket’s” rose patterns…

That may sound a bit too elaborate and esoteric as an answer to the question, ‘what keeps you up at night?’ but all depressive thoughts stem from the same root: fear. To cope with fear and uncertainty, we hide from our problems under this safety blanket, looking for patterns and familiar forms to make sense of a chaotic world; a temporary, if not imaginary, solution.

Apart from existential dread and bad dreams, the Nine of Swords could symbolize the lingering effects of a tragedy; sorrow, and repressed anger manifesting as full-fledged despair; obsession, and secrets; also, restless nights, overthinking, and feeling unsafe.

There is not much more to say here, for the card brings to our attention such problems that mere words cannot even define accurately, let alone solve. Verily, the culprit will often be verbal “rational” thinking and the myriad ways in which it complicates our waking life. What a relief would it be to think and communicate not with words but through images and music and pure ideas!

What does the Nine of Swords Tarot Card mean?

When the Nine of Swords shows up, it means that the seeker is having sleepless nights lately. Dark and worrisome thoughts are troubling their mind, and perhaps they saw a disturbing dream. They need to take it easy and figure out how to stop overthinking, as well as address any issues from the past that still hurt.

The Nine of Swords isn’t always as bad as it looks. Think of a man who has just woken up from a nightmare and is not entirely lucid, still processing the irrational dream as if it was real; soon, they will forget most of it.

Sleep deprivation, however, exhausts both body and mind; as Chuck Palahniuk wrote in his Fight Club, ‘everything is a copy of a copy of a copy…’ Reality and dream become entangled, leading the person to a state of desolation and making them question what’s real.

Falling asleep should happen naturally and trying to force it will have the opposite result. Perhaps a cup of warm tea is in order, but the problem might be more complex. Anxiety, trauma, a guilty conscience, fear of the dark and of being alone, repressed anger, and, of course, overthinking are the usual suspects.  A dream journal is a good practice to begin understanding what your mind is trying to tell you.

Draw a few more cards to clarify the source of distress; once the seeker has acknowledged and accepted their condition and the reasons behind it, they’ll be able to handle the next crisis when it occurs and resist the magnetic pull of dark, desperate and irrational thoughts.

It has been said that only cruel and remorseless men never have any trouble sleeping because they have no conscience. In so far as this is an exaggeration, there still is some truth in this statement; who can sleep well every single night of their life knowing that evil never sleeps and that existence might just be meaningless?

The Nine of Swords and its neighbors are the kind of cards that lead to self-fulfilling prophecies; if you have the overwhelming belief that failure awaits you, what chance do you have at success? The card is reasonably a bad omen, yet one you can avoid. History is bound to repeat itself unless we face up to reality and decide to do something about it. Just do not give in to the spiral of negativity, and do not try to hide from your fears; even if you are experiencing monumental sorrow, you can get help and change your perspective so that you feel calm and safe again.

Nine of Swords Keywords

  • Existential crisis
  • Nightmares
  • Overthinking
  • Despair
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Dark thoughts
  • Repressed anger
  • Restless
  • Sleepless nights

What does the Nine of Swords Reversed mean?

The reversed Nine of Swords means it is time for a reality check; is there a basis for your fears, or are they products of a mind riddled with anxiety and doubt? Perhaps a secret is weighing down on your conscience, or you have reasonable suspicions of malicious activity against you.

Arthur E. Waite said about the reversed Nine of Swords that it denotes ‘reasonable fear’ and also ‘good ground for suspicion against a doubtful person.’ Not to sound superstitious, but quite often when a seeker goes through a series of unfortunate experiences that stress them out mentally and physically, it appears that someone is out to get them, bringing about bad luck.

Be careful; could someone be holding a grudge against you? Have you confided your secrets to a hidden enemy and let them close?  You might want to wear a protective amulet or look for some other form of protection against the proverbial evil eye just in case; it works even if you don’t believe in it!

The card in reverse might also indicate the opposite: you are making a problem far worse than it is because of an irrational phobia. You let this fear get a grip on you and worry too much about what might go wrong instead of looking for ways to deal with it.

Check your mindset and attitude; perhaps you are seeing obstacles where there are none and making up reasons to feel bad about yourself and the future. Once you realize this, you will start seeing the options where you once saw the problems.

Nine of Swords Reversed Keywords

  • Suspicion
  • Secrets
  • Doubt
  • Reasonable fear
  • Hiding from a problem
  • Inner turmoil
  • Making it worse than it is
  • Recovery from sorrow

Is the Nine of Swords Tarot Card a Yes or No?

The Nine of Swords usually means “No” for a Yes or No question due to its complexity and dark implications. However, it could be an affirmation of suspicious activity in the dark; best be very careful and reserved.

This will depend on the form of the question. For example, if you asked, ‘can I trust this person?’ then the answer will be negative; they cannot even trust themselves! If the question was expressed in the opposite way, i.e., ‘will this person cause me trouble?’ then the card likely means “Yes.”

For most general questions, however, under no circumstances will the Nine of Swords give a positive answer; what you wish for will be out of reach as long as you let fear and anxiety get the best of you.